I’m from Vegas, but I found myself on a street corner in NYC early one morning with 40 other hackers and entrepreneurs. We were about to get on a bus sponsored by Twilio, Sendgrid and Microsoft to attend the Startup Festival in Montreal. Nervous excitement crackled in the air as introductions were made, pitches and business cards were prematurely swapped and tweetable hashtags for the trip were discussed.
Jon Gottfried of Twilio gave us some great advice in his opening remarks as the bus started rolling. “The most cost effective way to market your startup is being friendly”. You might be thinking, “Hey, I have friends. I’m a friendly person.” But does your startup have friends? Are there people who have no idea what you do but that talk about you and your co founders to everyone they meet?
While working on Wedgies, we’ve had the chance to make a lot of friends. And we’ve learned some important lessons about how to be a friendly startup and have seen it pay off in small and big ways.
1. Exchange Twitter Handles instead of Business Cards
The only reason to ever hand out a business card is to put it in the gold fish bowl at a Chinese buffet. People leave these events with pockets full of cards and never remember who they belong to. With a Twitter handle you can continue engaging long after the event is over. Also, Twitter is great for making intros.
2. Make Friends with the Person Next to You
Waiting in a long line to meet a speaker or pitch a famous Angel? Turn around and start talking to the person next to you while you wait. You probably have more in common with them than you do with the person at the end of the line. And you have a better chance of finding someone cool to go to dinner with next to you than at the end of a line.
3. Don’t Pitch Your Product to People that Want to Help
We made this mistake at Startup Festival when we had an opportunity to ask Angel Investor Dan Martell some questions.
Dan: “How can I help?”
Me: “Well Wedgies is a simple….”
Dan: “No, I mean how can I help”
Porter: “We want to revolutionize….”
Dan: “Gentelmen, I want to help, what can I help you with?”
He wasn’t asking for our pitch. He didn’t want to be sold. But he has a wealth of knowledge and was willing to share it with us. All we had to do was ask him a question. And we did. And the conversation that followed blew our minds. I’m glad he was patient with us.
4. Don’t Ditch Someone that Wants to Hang Out for Someone that Doesn’t
Spend an evening eating, drinking and conversing with new friends and you will be pleasantly surprised how you can help each other down the road. Are you headed to dinner or drinks after a conference or event? Invite someone to go with. You can figure out the tab later.
Because you aren’t anyone else. Help other people and they will find ways to help you. Or ice you.
Huge shout out to Twilio and SendGrid for putting together this event and sponsoring it. By far they are some of my favorite APIs to use and favorite people to hang out with. Feel free to hit either Porter or myself up on Twitter if you want to talk more about this, learn more about Vegas or just get some beers sometime.
Here is a list of all the groups that were on the bus.
• ConnectCubed – Helps you get a job in the finance industry.
• CredoHealth – Private video chat between patients and health care professionals.
• FashionProject – Helping people donate clothes and earn money for non-profits.
• Fiestah – One-stop shop for party planning, including caterers and photographers.
• General Machines – Its Deatfel product hooks up the hard-of-hearing to others via phone.
• Gokrt – Online shopping cart for any site around the web.
• Kunvay – Easy way to transfer and receive ownership of creative work online.
• Review Trackers – Helps you monitor online reviews of your business or product.
• SlideSeed – SaaS that lets you create digital signage for you storefront.
• SplitWise – Helping you split your expenses smartly with friends and family.
• Thryve – iPhone app that helps you eat healthier, not just count calories.
• Travtar – Travel search that compares hotels, hostels, short-term housing, and more.
• Wedgies – Simple online and SMS polling that can be spread via social media.